Over 900 scientists call for fairer investment in infectious disease research in low resource areas
São Paulo – 24 October 2023 – Leading scientists today called on investors and donors to ensure more equitable funding for research in low-resource settings (LRS). These are where diseases arise and often cause the most harm – but where research is rarely funded, so LRS scientists cannot contribute to key global health decision making. They warned that the world cannot afford a repeat of COVID-19, where less than 6% of the nearly USD 8 billion COVID-19 2020/21 research funding went to low- or middle-income countries for locally relevant research. Leading scientists today announced the launch of a global Coalition for Equitable ResearCh in Low-resource sEttings (CERCLE), to ensure that future research is more equitable and relevant beyond COVID, and that scientists contribute to key global health decision making.
“If we want relevant research evidence to drive public health policies, global health emergencies must also involve clinical researchers, social scientists, policymakers and others from all affected regions.”
Said Prof. Patricia Garcia, Latin America representative on CERCLE’s Steering Committee, former Minister of Health in Peru and Professor at Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia. “During COVID-19, the epidemiology and disease varied widely across the world, but the so-called global research priorities were set by high-income countries, so were funded accordingly.” She said when announcing the creation of CERCLE, in a speech at the Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness (GloPID-R) General Assembly, in Sao Paolo, Brazil.
More than 900 CERCLE researchers (75% from low- and middle-income countries, previously of the COVID-19 Clinical Research Coalition) believe the world must learn from COVID-19, as researchers in low-resource settings could not obtain sufficient funding for locally relevant research, and so did not contribute to key global health decision making. They are now calling for future medical tools (guidelines, devices, treatments, diagnostics, vaccines etc.) to be better researched and adapted to the people they affect, wherever they reside.
“CERCLE’s strength lies in its unique membership of scientists, physicians and policymakers from nearly 100 countries, all share a vision of fairer global research and investment.” Said Prof. Mohammad Abul Faiz, a CERCLE’s Steering Committee member, based in Bangladesh. “Change will not come overnight, but we commit to a range of technical and political challenges to facilitate research so it is driven for and by people in low-resource settings. First this means recognizing the research capacity, experience, and expertise of the global South, but also participating in fair and equal research partnerships across the globe.”
COVID-19 is no longer a public health emergency. Much of the global attention has now shifted to pandemic preparedness. But systemic inequities in the global research landscape persist, and infectious diseases remain a major threat to global health. CERCLE believes that public health policies in low-resource settings should be informed by relevant local or regional evidence. It is in everyone`s interest to support the necessary research, both financially and politically.
CERCLE came out of the COVID-19 Clinical Research Coalition and is pushing for more equitable investment in researchers in low-resource settings, as well as greater representation of these researchers and their research to develop policies and practices.
First incubated and supported by the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) in April 2020, CERCLE is now hosted by the Pandemic Preparedness Platform for Health and Emerging Infections Response (PANTHER).
The GLoPID-R General Assembly is gathering members and observers from across the globe, including funders investing in research related to new or re-emerging infectious diseases, to increase preparedness and speed up the research response to outbreaks with pandemic potential.
The Coalition for Equitable ResearCh in Low-resource sEttings (CERCLE) emerged from the COVID-19 Clinical Research Coalition. It was created in April 2020 by the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU), the Infectious Diseases Data Observatory (IDDO), and 75 signatories calling for the creation of a research coalition to address the glaring inequities in the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The coalition has grown to include more than 900 scientists, physicians, policymakers, and funders, of whom 75% are based in low and middle-income countries. CERCLE advocates for equitable collaboration and funding for research on infectious diseases and related threats, including antimicrobial resistance.
Dr Amina Haouala
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Link to the original Lancet letter: Global coalition to accelerate COVID-19 clinical research in resource-limited settings – The Lancet